Main Engine Cut Off

Boeing Acquires Millennium Space Systems

Sandra Erwin, SpaceNews:

Millennium Space Systems develops and manufactures military satellites and has deep expertise in complex systems engineering. It is privately owned and the terms of the acquisition by Boeing were not disclosed. Millennium has received NASA contracts but its primary customer is the U.S. Air Force, which could open up opportunities for Boeing to compete in the national security space sector.

The most telling piece of info here is that Millennium will operate as a subsidiary reporting to Phantom Works:

The acquisition is expected to close by the end of third quarter 2018. Once finalized, Millennium Space Systems will become a Boeing subsidiary, operating under its current business model and reporting to Mark Cherry, vice president and general manager of Phantom Works.

Seems like Boeing sees Millennium as their ticket into the Department of Defense’s resiliency campaign that gets so much talk of late.

Lockheed Martin Awarded $2.9 Billion for Three Overhead Persistent Infrared GEO Space Vehicles

Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Sunnyvale, California, has been awarded a $2,935,545,188 not-to-exceed undefinitized contract for three Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Geosynchronous Earth Orbit Space Vehicles.  This contract encompasses requirements analysis, design/development, critical path flight hardware procurement, early manufacturing, and risk reduction efforts leading to a system critical design review.  Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, California, and is expected to be completed by April 30, 2021.

We knew this would be sole-sourced to Lockheed Martin, just like we knew that for the polar vehicles awarded to Northrop Grumman. What we didn’t know was the award value, and it’s huge.

Lockheed was awarded $2.9 billion on an undefinitized contract, which is a type of contract action that allows the contractor to begin work before terms and specifications are agreed upon. Northrop Grumman was also awarded an undefinitized contract, but for the relatively meager amount of $47 million.

The other side of a Rocket company CEO

Destin from SmarterEveryDay was invited down to the Parker Solar Probe launch, and got to hang out with Tory Bruno (and zero entourage) as the Mobile Service Tower rolled away from the rocket. He posted an absolutely lovely photo series with some commentary:

Here's a dude that's the CEO of a rocket company that is about to fire a rocket that folks from all over the world are waiting on......  and he's on the pad without a massive entourage casually discussing the finer parts of rocket science through with his wife.  I don't care about the politics of contracts etc.... I love rockets, and I love strong families.   I've never seen anything like this on the news and I wanted to document it.  Awesome marriages should be celebrated.

Beautiful. Can’t wait to see the video.

Blue Origin Confirms BE-3U Uses Expander Cycle

In a tweet firmly buried by the news cycle—on a Friday afternoon in August, while everyone else was talking about the Parker Solar Probe launch—Blue Origin showed off a video of a BE-3U firing, gave an update on their testing, and confirmed it will use a different cycle than the BE-3:

Recent footage of BE-3U demonstration engine hot fire. Two BE-3Us will power upper stage of #NewGlenn & deliver our customers to orbit. We’ve completed over 700 seconds of test time & confirmed performance assumptions used for final BE-3U expander cycle design

The switch to expander cycle is a big deal. Because of the BE-3U’s thrust level, it’ll be an open/bleed cycle. That does decrease efficiency a bit, but its specific impulse will be very much in the ballpark of the RL10 and Vinci.

T+89: Lockheed’s Small Sat Strategy, NASA Tipping Points Contracts

Lockheed Martin has been slowly revealing their small sat strategy over the last three years, and it’s shaping up to be quite interesting and potentially very compelling. And NASA announced 10 Tipping Point awards last week, which include some very interesting projects from Blue Origin, ULA, and Astrobotic.

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Capella Launching First Satellite This Fall

Debra Werner for SpaceNews, reporting on Capella, who is working towards the deployment of a synthetic aperture radar satellite constellation:

Capella satellites will weigh less than 40 kilograms, which means four will fit on a single Rocket Lab Electron rocket, said Payam Banazadeh, Capella co-founder and chief executive.

By launching four satellites on each rocket and sending rocket into different planes, Capella will “build a constellation of many planes and orbits with the least amount of operational and deployment complexity,” Banazadeh said. “It allows us to deploy our constellation efficiently in a shorter time frame and with less capital” than constellations of larger satellites.

In orbit, Capella plans to unfurl antennas made of a flexible material the company declined to specify. Once deployed, the antennas will span eight square meters, Banazadeh said during a recent tour of the firm’s San Francisco headquarters.

I’m excited to see this constellation deployed. It’s not just another imaging constellation. It’s something new and different, and something that I think will find a market.

But this is a shockingly bad take from one of their investors:

Hyatt said by email he’s backing Capella because it is “the only company with the capability to bring the cost of SAR down by 10x while still keeping the quality images the industry expects.

This comment will not stand the test of time. There is another.

SpaceX’s Five Fueling Demos

Eric Berger for Ars Technica:

“We have an agreement with SpaceX that they are going to take our launch vehicle configuration and run it through the actual crew-loading timeline to demonstrate consistency,” Lueders said. “It’s for us to get confidence on the crew-loading sequence.”

This means that the static fire and launch of the Demo-1 mission will follow fuel-loading procedures for crew missions, as will the static fire and launch of the in-flight abort mission. The fifth test will come during the static fire test of the Demo-2 flight.

We’ve heard about these fueling demos before, but it was a mystery when and where they would take place.

Terran Orbital’s Series B Round, and Lockheed’s Small Sat Master Plan

Debra Werner, for SpaceNews, from SmallSat 2018:

Terran Orbital raised $36 million in a Series B round from investors, including Lockheed Martin, Beach Point Capital managed funds and Goldman Sachs, the company announced Aug. 6.

With the new funding, Terran Orbital plans to expand its workforce and buy manufacturing equipment for a new 40,000 square foot facility designed to produce as many as 150 satellites a year.

The trend of small sat production lines continue. Also of interest, this statement by Lockheed Martin:

“Lockheed Martin chose to expand upon our existing relationship with Terran Orbital, as both an investor and a customer, to support the LM 50 Series Satellite Bus System,” Chris Moran, Lockheed Martin Ventures executive director and general manager, said in a statement.

I’ve been curious to hear more about the LM 50 bus for a while now, so it’s good to see it mentioned again in this context.

String a few stories together and you start to get a clear picture of Lockheed Martin’s small sat master plan: they invested in Rocket Lab in 2015, began investing in Terran Orbital last June, unveiled the LM 50 bus last September, and landed an award from the UK Space Agency to develop a launch site in Scotland. It seems like Lockheed wants to be in the business of selling you a full-spectrum, single-stop-shop small sat service: buy our bus, fly it on our vehicle, from our launch site.

Zurbuchen Says All NASA Science Launches Will Carry ESPA Ring

Jeff Foust, for SpaceNews, from SmallSat 2018:

Zurbuchen added that NASA will provide more rideshare opportunities. Going forward, when NASA purchases a launch for a science mission, it will also acquire an EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) ring that can accommodate secondary payloads, including both NASA smallsats as well as those from outside the agency.

That approach is different from current approaches, where an ESPA ring may be added later in the mission development process. “We’re not going to ask whether we need it,” he said. “You have to convince us that we don’t need it.”

Rocket Lab’s Next Launch Attempt Set for November

Rocket Lab’s It’s Business Time mission will launch in November, with the ELaNa XIX mission for NASA to follow soon after in December. Both missions will launch from Rocket Lab’s private orbital launch pad in New Zealand, Launch Complex-1.

Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck, says the speedy turnaround between launches is possible thanks to designing the Electron rocket for rapid manufacture, as well as Launch Complex-1’s ability to process and launch vehicles quickly.

Rocket Lab stood down from an earlier launch window for It’s Business Time in June 2018, after unusual behavior was identified in a motor controller during pre-launch operations. Following analysis, the motor controllers have been modified and undergone new qualification testing ahead of the next launch.

I’ve also heard from a few different places that, ahead of this launch, they’re taking some time to knock off a few other items from their to-do list. Let’s hope all goes well and they can get into smooth operations for 2019.